Rediscovering Coca Suki Steamboat

Preparing the fish glue

I like steamboat dinners. There’s nothing as homely, comforting and communal as a steamboat dinner amongst friends and family. It’s the Asian version of the American backyard barbecue, only less messy.

Coca Suki Restaurant used to be my favorite steamboat restaurant because, when I was much younger, I would save up my NS allowance just to take full advantage of it’s high-quality, all-you-can-eat menu. This is a restaurant where you can bring your family and prospective in-laws to and be assured of a successful dinner where you are guaranteed to project an image of old-school reliability and sensitivity. Much to the relief of your wallet and girlfriend.

However, things changed as they stopped the all-you-can-eat part of their menu, so I’ve never been back ever since.

And when I was invited to a private dinner with friends who are veteran gourmands at what used to be my favorite steamboat restaurant, I immediately marked my calendar.

We were treated to quite a number of off-menu items such as fresh oysters, grilled King Prawn, fried cuttlefish rings with garlic chips and their famous Roast Pork and Braised Pork cheeks.

The King Prawn was so good that this, I think, is the first time I finished an entire prawn myself and the cuttlefish rings, lightly battered with an aromatic curry powder were done to perfection. Likewise, the Roast Pork is one of the best you can find, crackling, bouncy without being greasy and unctuous.

2009June03-Coca-152009June03-Coca-7          Fried Cuttle-fish Rings With Garlic Chips

However, it was the braised pork cheeks that blew me away: served with a sweetish plummy sauce, it’s like biting into a cloud of flavor where you chew and chew, delighting in the tender sweetness, never wanting to swallow in hopes of prolonging the glorious sensation for just a little longer.

The crackling roast pork is usually available if you ask for it (at the Takashimaya branch) and if you’re lucky, the braised pork cheeks is available only on weekends, if they do it at all.

After all that, we were groaning when the main event, the steamboat course, began. Coca seems to have a sauce for everything. There was a sweetish bean sauce for the braised cheeks, a spicy, highly acidic chili for the roast pork which also went well with the oysters.

But the secret to Coca’s success (besides high-quality food) is the special Coca Chili Sauce that was created by the owner’s wife in 1957. Till today, I still think it’s once of my favorite sauces that seems to go well with everything else with it’s bright salty and slightly minty-peppery notes.

Secret Ingredient Sauce!Raw Cockles          Preparing the musselsUSDA Sirloin          Deep-fried Pomfret

When the plates of raw cockles arrived, everyone grew excited because this is a rare treat with its clean, fresh taste of the sea and iron from the blood. You rarely find raw cockles anymore and sadly most places that serve raw cockles are either dubious in hygiene and cleanliness or do the criminal deed of adding sugar to it.

I have memories of my father devouring plate after plate of raw cockles with a sambal, lime and soya sauce (or was it Kicap Manis?), sliced red chillies dip in the old fairgrounds at the legendary Gay World Amusement Park. That is all I have to say about that.

Very good liver

What I enjoyed thoroughly was the pork liver. I love pork liver to the point that I won’t eat Bak Chor Mee without pork liver. I rarely take it these days mainly because it’s hard to find good pork liver which is why the one at Coca is such a treat. It was sweet and very clean tasting with that slight crunch you get at the back of your mouth as you bite into it. I didn’t keep count but I think I must have finished a plateful by myself (and sneaking pieces from other plates). 🙂

One other interesting twist was the deep-fried Pomfret. Our host thought that it would be more flavorful to deep-fry the Pomfret before adding it to the soup. He was right. The pomfret was deep-fried perfectly: crisp without being greasy (almost dry). This added an addition dimension when we cooked it further in the chicken stock. Fans and fellows of Escoffier will be delighted to know that the chicken stock is made from old fowls.


Coca Suki is an old household name; it serves old school, good quality steamboat at really reasonable prices. Great to bring your parents and prospective in-laws.

While the International Building branch is still the most popular, I feel that the Takashimaya branch has its charms. Whichever the case, the all-you-can-eat buffet is back (for a long time, I was told) and the quality of the food still remains top-notch. I am glad to have rediscovered to Coca Suki and I will definitely have to look for some prospective in-laws to bring. 😛

Coca Takashimaya Branch is at 391 Orchard Road #04-22 Ngee Ann City Singapore 238874, Tel. 6734 7887 and Coca International Building is at 360 Orchard Road, #02-05 International Building, Tel: 6738 2588


Posted on 24th Jul 2009 in Makankaki, Old School, Thai


There Are 6 Comments


anon commented on July 26, 2009 at 2:51 am

Used to frequent the Concourse (Beach Road) Branch several years back. But then the quality of the food together with their service started going downhill. It got to a point where several seafood items, such as the prawns and the fish paste, did not taste fresh.


ivan commented on July 27, 2009 at 1:16 am

@anon: Did you feedback to the management? I believe the MD of the chain used to be at that branch before it closed many years ago, so you would have had the excellent opportunity to do so.


anon commented on July 28, 2009 at 3:40 am

Nope, never complained. Cos we were believers of the urban legends that “identified objects” might end up in our subsequent plates if we complain to the wait staff. After 2 or 3 repeated encounters with not-so-fresh food items, we stopped going altogether. It was really a pity, I remembered my 1st few visits to Coca Concourse were very enjoyable.


ivan commented on July 28, 2009 at 9:46 am

Haha! Good one! You’re right, it’s your prerogative to vote with your wallet. But I thought the dinner at Taka was really good. | A Hainanese dinner commented on October 23, 2009 at 8:06 am

[…] was a success and during that dinner, two diners discovered that they were Hainanese and had roots in neighboring villages in Hainan. […]


[…] blog rediscovered Coca as a great place for dinner, was invited to a photoshoot at Barracks at Dempsey and roasted a […]

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